By Kim Knode
The diamond-studded tiara is placed on the pageant queen’s coiffure. The crowd goes crazy. The other contestants gather around with congratulations. At age twenty, my reaction to this oft-played TV scene was criticism. “Why the emphasis on looks?” Two decades later as wrinkles appear I have an answer. Looking good makes you feel good. Or at least – it helps in the self-esteem department.
Today, tricks are welcome to conceal the signs of living – crying and laughing – and dieting to and fro between dress sizes. So on my quest to reflect the inner exquisiteness (which I am more in touch with in my forties), I plied several plus- thirty Mrs. pageant victors to discover the secrets of the tiara set.
Encountering Stacey Cooper, Mrs. Globe 2001 in California was encouraging for those of us concerned with weight. Cooper is a far cry from a skinny Kate Moss. She is, however, a steadily working statuesque Eileen Ford model. Among her credits: “I was the tall brunette girl, Danny, on the Michael J. Fox Pepsi commercial,” says the super-fit model.
And as if a tiara and scepter are not enough Cooper touts a Cleo. (Cleos are kind of an Emmy for commercials.)
Competition thrills Cooper. “I love pageants. I think it is fabulous to be able to train and get in shape. ” Cooper declares, “It’s like any other sport.”
In fact, the beauty queen keeps strong and lean with loads of aerobic exercise. She pursues her preferred sport of tennis with almost as much passion as her ambitious Mrs. Globe platform of assisting abused women through the Women In Need (WIN) Foundation. Cooper is ranked as a 4.0 player with the USTA (United States Tennis Association).
Instead of diet sodas, nuts give Cooper the capacity to energetically navigate between WIN work, sports, modeling and motherhood. “I always keep almonds and stuff in my car because I don’t like drive-thrus. To me that is like hurting yourself,” says the model Mrs. Globe.
Cooper admits that, “Every once in a while I’ll have something fancy. But most of the time – just simple food – just healthy, simple, natural. I do a lot of vegetables.” She adds, “And I drink water – a ton, ton, ton.”
On the tennis court, the beauty queen often trades in her scepter for a water bottle in one hand and sunscreen in the other. She also replaces her tiara with a protective visor.
“To avoid cancer?” I ask.
“For aging!” replies Cooper. Eager to educate me, she explains that women should buy sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in the top three ingredients. Cooper adds that, ” I would also suggest the sunscreen on the hands and arms. A lot of times people try to make the face look good but forget about other exposed areas.”
Mrs. U.S. Globe 2001, Becky Coomes (who will be competing for the Mrs. Globe 2002 title and Cooper’s crown) says that her Mississippi grandmother’s elixir keeps her complexion flawless. (Savvy to the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words, Avon advertisers chose Coomes for their Retroactive Age Reversal Cream campaign.) Apparently, granny’s recipe is also partially responsible for Mrs. U.S. Globe’s Scarlet O’Hara waist.
Living up to her reputation in Mississippi as a champion of community service, Coomes agrees to share the winning ingredients with me. “You take one-tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of honey and dissolve them in water.” She adds, “You know I’ve told women this. They drink the vinegar and honey with only a smidgen of water! ” She scrunches up her face with a giggle. “It’s important to take a big glass of water and stir it around.” Coomes also advises, “Drink it with a straw. You don’t want the vinegar to eat the enamel off your teeth.”
“And it helps with weight control?” I ask.
The southern belle whispers, “Oh it’s so good for your body because it will flush out the impurities.” She continues with a furtive smile, “And the vinegar will literally eat what you eat.” She adds, “Of course honey is good for your hair too.” Like a trial lawyer making her final statement she triumphantly concludes, “And the value of vinegar dates back to biblical times.”
I ask Coomes (who looks more like Barbie than a woman who has given birth to a child) if she eats three times a day. “Usually,” she replies. (The beauty queen even eats cheesecake.) She swears that the key to her enviable figure is moderation and daily shots of her maternal grandmother’s drink.
“Also, I get up early in the morning and I love to jog at our local walking park,” says Mrs. U.S. Globe. “When I get back home, Ill work my biceps and my triceps with a weight bar. You know the one that has a crinkle and bent in it?”
Mrs. United States 2001, Dana Lee Opsincs’ methods of squeezing into a swimsuit are slightly more conventional.
“I went on a high-protein, low-carb diet,” explains Opsincs. “I lost fifteen pounds,” she proudly proclaims. “Egg whites and eating something every two hours is my secret,” says Mrs. United States. “And working out at least three times a week. I also hired a trainer.”
As for her luxurious cascade of blonde, Opsincs confesses, “Oh! I hardly do anything at all.” As an afterthought she adds, “Well, I try not to blow dry it too long.”
By following the tips of beauty queens – egg whites, elixir or almonds and sunscreen advice – we may not all end up garnering tiaras. We may, however, win the accolades of our husbands. Most importantly, stop worrying long enough about our looks so we can pause and appreciate our individual inner beauty strengths.
Kim Knode’s interview articles focusing on artists, celebrities and dance champions have been published in various print and on-line publications. See more of Kim’s work at www.kimknode.com